The Pitch Drop

After years of obscurity the Trinity pitch drop demonstration became an overnight sensation. The pitch tar was placed in the funnel in the School of Physics in October 1944, beginning what is now a 70 year continuously running demonstration. While appearing solid at room temperature, pitch tar flows very slowly with a drop falling from the end of the funnel approximately once in a decade. It is not known who started this demonstration, but they clearly had patience. The Trinity pitch tar demonstration is one of only three such experiments in the world and until the 11th July, 2013 no one had seen a drop drip.  The University of Queensland had missed filming their drop falling in 2000 as a result of bad luck; the camera was offline at the time. In 2013 Shane Bergin and Stefan Hutzler captured the drop falling in Trinity, becoming the first to record this rare moment. The time-lapse video attracted global media attention including RTÉ News, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street JournalNew Scientist and the National Geographic.  In recognition of its global fame the pitch tar demonstration has been on display in the college library since 2014 but has returned to its permanent home in the School of Physics in time for the tercentenary.


  3. Shane D Bergin et al, The drop heard around the world, 2014 Phys. World 27 (05) 26
  4. Why Trinity Prides Itself on a Useless Experiment, Aoife Kearins, University Times, 2018.